Photo by JOSH ALDRICH/Advocate staff -- for Josh's story -- Notre Dame Cougars Kyle Kryczka is tackled by a Hunting Hills Lightning player during Central Alberta Hugh School Rugby action at Titans Park on Wednesday

Cougars coming on strong in boys rugby

The Notre Dame Cougars boys rugby team are rounding into form just in time for playoffs. On Wednesday they beat the Hunting Hills Lightning 69-15 to improve to 3-0 on the season and set up a show down with the perennial powerhouse Lindsay Thurber Raiders next Wednesday for first place. The winner will get a bye to the zone final while the other team will have to play Hunting Hills in the semifinal.

The Notre Dame Cougars boys rugby team are rounding into form just in time for playoffs.

On Wednesday they beat the Hunting Hills Lightning 69-15 to improve to 3-0 on the season and set up a show down with the perennial powerhouse Lindsay Thurber Raiders next Wednesday for first place. The winner will get a bye to the zone final while the other team will have to play Hunting Hills in the semifinal.

That exhibition game will be one the Cougars want to avoid, knowing the Lightning had an off night and were missing several key players on Wednesday.

“We had an exhibition game and they actually beat us (21-7),” said Cougars head coach Dion Clifford, now in his third year with the team. “For our boys to turn it around like this it’s very good.”

Notre Dame was led by Jesse Kowalchuk with three tries and seven conversions on 11 attempts while Dagbrani Wande scored two tries and Kane Leblanc, Kyle Kryczka, Beauregard Aubin, Kalen Weaver, Dawson Shearer and Brendon Vavrek each found the end zone once.

Shaun Howse replied with two tries and Zech Pilgrim one for Hunting Hills

The Cougars have been building to a finals rematch with the Raiders all season, kicking off their short campaign with a tournament in Kamloops, B.C.

“We won one game and lost two, but it’s more about the experience and the travel and the tour and the team bonding,” said Clifford.

They are short on returning players with just three players back from last year’s team: Aubin, Mitchell Dube and Taylor Vida. With so much turnover this means there was a lot of room for young players to fill major roles this year and the likes of Shelby Smith and Grade 11 captain Alex Kulak.

“He brings a calm attitude and leads the boys by example,” said Clifford of their young captain.

Meanwhile Kowalchuk has made an especially big impact in his first year in the sport.

He is showing the speed that made him one of the region’s top defensive backs and return specialists during the football season, if he gets a seam or into open space, there’s not many who will catch him. Against Hunting Hills he almost always escaped solitary defenders, usually needing to be cornered off by multiple Lightning players to be taken down.

But his coach says his talents go beyond just speed, agility and instincts.

“It’s good that he’s keen and wants to learn as well, it’s good to have coachable players like that,” said Clifford.

They are lead by a group of big forwards that allows their faster skill players like Kowalchuk that needed room to roam.

Despite their youth, expectations are high for this group, even with the Raiders behemoth standing in their way.

“You always hope to go to provincials,” said Clifford. “Lindsay Thurber is always the top team in Central Alberta, things are looking positive but it will be a tough game.”

Just Posted

Second attempted ATM theft at Red Deer IGA

Anyone with information is asked to contact RCMP

City businesses must have licences

Businesses can apply through new system online called MyLicence

Solar panels installed on city bus station

$550,000 project will generate power for city

Ponoka students singing to promote cross-cultural understanding

Songs focused on bringing inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding into the spotlight

“Thriller” fundraiser set for Oct. 27

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and Pound It Hop Hop Dancers Association to benefit

WATCH: Two weeks away from Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer

In just two weeks, Ponoka’s Shayna Weir will compete with the best… Continue reading

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day

ORLANDO, Fla. — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when… Continue reading

Court weighs ‘Apprentice’ hopeful’s suit versus Trump

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s lawyers hope to persuade an appeals… Continue reading

StarKist admits fixing tuna prices, faces $100 million fine

SAN FRANCISCO — StarKist Co. agreed to plead guilty to a felony… Continue reading

Annual pace of inflation slows to 2.2 per cent in September: Statistics Canada

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed more than expected in… Continue reading

Jury finds Calgary couple guilty in 2013 death of toddler son

CALGARY — A jury has convicted a Calgary couple in the death… Continue reading

Study of U.S. hospital figures links pot use with increased risk of stroke

MONTREAL — New research is being presented at a conference in Montreal… Continue reading

Leon Draisaitl has overtime winner as Edmonton Oilers down Boston Bruins 3-2

EDMONTON — Connor McDavid set up Leon Draisaitl for the overtime winner… Continue reading

Edmonton girl guide sells out of cookies in front of cannabis store on first day

EDMONTON — She’s being called one smart cookie. As people lined up… Continue reading

Most Read